The Coroner's job is to gather information to determine if a medical certificate of cause of death can be issued or if further investigations are required. If the certificate can't be issued, the coroner will order a post-mortem examination.
The coroner as part of their investigation may instruct a pathologist to carry out a post-mortem examination (autopsy).
The coroner is an independent judicial officer whose role is to investigate any death in their jurisdiction reported to them which is violent, unnatural, the cause is unknown or which occurs in prison, police custody or other state detention. For example, a patient detained under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.
Since 2013, newly appointed coroners must have five years of legal practice or part-time judicial practice. Coroners who were in post before 2013 could be lawyers or doctors.
It is important to remember that the coroner cannot apportion blame. The coroner does not decide or appear to decide any question of criminal or civil liability. It is an inquisitorial process involving an investigation followed by a hearing where evidence will be given under oath. The deceased's family has the right to participate in the proceedings and to ask questions of the witnesses, which is where the expertise of inquest solicitors is invaluable.
If death occurred in hospital or a nursing home, the inquest may be the only time that doctors, nurses or carers will ever fully explain what they did and describe exactly what happened.
This happened during the inquest into the death of Stephen Bridgman following brain surgery. Read about the inquest and discover how Shoosmiths was able to support the family.